U.S. Envoy Accuses Assad of Slow-Walking Chemical Arms Removal

None

Workers handle a mock chemical munition at a German disposal site last October. A U.S. envoy on Thursday accused Syria's government of delaying the elimination of its chemical arsenal by "bargaining" for unnecessary security equipment.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Jan. 30, 2014, 9:22 a.m.

The United States on Thursday as­ser­ted that Syr­ia is slow­ing the dis­man­tle­ment of its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al by “bar­gain­ing” for un­needed se­cur­ity gear.

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime has de­man­ded “ar­mored jack­ets for ship­ping con­tain­ers, elec­tron­ic coun­ter­meas­ures and de­tect­ors for im­pro­vised ex­plos­ive devices” to help trans­port its war­fare chem­ic­als to a coastal city for re­mov­al by for­eign ships, said Robert Miku­lak, Wash­ing­ton’s am­bas­sad­or to the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons in the Hag­ue.

However, such pleas “are without mer­it,” and could threaten an in­ter­na­tion­al ef­fort to elim­in­ate the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment’s chem­ic­al-arms stock­pile by an end-of-June dead­line, the en­voy told a gath­er­ing of the 41-na­tion OP­CW Ex­ec­ut­ive Coun­cil.

“It is es­sen­tial that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment es­tab­lish a plan that will give the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity con­fid­ence that move­ments will be made reg­u­larly” to send its war­fare chem­ic­als abroad for de­struc­tion, he said in pre­pared re­marks to the OP­CW gov­ern­ing body. The chem­ic­al-weapons watch­dog agency is over­see­ing the dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion, which began in the af­ter­math of an Au­gust nerve-gas strike al­legedly re­spons­ible for more than 1,400 deaths, in­clud­ing wo­men and chil­dren.

Re­mov­al of the weapons has pro­ceeded slower than planned. Less than one-twen­ti­eth of the stocks had left the coun­try as of Wed­nes­day, leav­ing in­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies far from their ini­tial goal of wrap­ping up re­mov­al by Feb. 5.

For months, West­ern na­tions re­portedly have been res­ist­ing re­quests from Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment for chem­ic­al-se­cur­ity equip­ment that it might turn against rebels in the coun­try’s bloody civil war. Miku­lak said Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al-war­fare as­sets “have of­ten been moved dur­ing the on­go­ing con­flict without such equip­ment, demon­strat­ing that Syr­ia has been able to en­sure suf­fi­cient pro­tec­tion to date with its cur­rent cap­ab­il­it­ies, and without this ad­di­tion­al ‘wish list’ of equip­ment.”

The U.S. of­fi­cial noted that the dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion’s in­ter­na­tion­al over­seers now agree that Dam­as­cus is ad­equately equipped to safely trans­port the chem­ic­als.

Dam­as­cus, though, last week said it is com­mit­ted to send­ing its chem­ic­al stock­pile over­seas “as soon as pos­sible,” ac­cord­ing to OP­CW Dir­ect­or Gen­er­al Ah­met Üzüm­cü.

A seni­or As­sad en­voy said Dam­as­cus is “mak­ing in­tens­ive ef­forts to pre­pare for, and ac­cel­er­ate, the trans­port­a­tion of chem­ic­als, and that it is cur­rently work­ing on a tent­at­ive sched­ule for com­plet­ing the trans­port­a­tion of chem­ic­als,” Üzüm­cü said in a state­ment to his agency’s gov­ern­ing board. The top OP­CW of­fi­cial provided no fur­ther de­tails.

Not­ing a sep­ar­ate con­cern on Thursday, Miku­lak said As­sad’s gov­ern­ment wants to elim­in­ate sev­er­al sub­ter­ranean and above-ground chem­ic­al-weapon fa­cil­it­ies through meth­ods that fall short of full de­struc­tion.

Steps such as “weld­ing doors shut and con­struct­ing in­teri­or obstacles … are read­ily re­vers­ible with­in days and clearly do not meet the re­quire­ment of ‘phys­ic­ally des­troyed’ as provided for by the [Chem­ic­al Weapons] Con­ven­tion,” he said.

He urged the OP­CW gov­ern­ing board to “re­ject Syr­ia’s pro­pos­al to ‘in­ac­tiv­ate’ its hangar and tun­nel [chem­ic­al-weapon pro­duc­tion fa­cil­it­ies], rather than phys­ic­ally des­troy­ing them as the CWC re­quires.”

What We're Following See More »
‘PULLING A TRUMP’
GOP Budget Chiefs Won’t Invite Administration to Testify
15 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The administration will release its 2017 budget blueprint tomorrow, but the House and Senate budget committees won’t be inviting anyone from the White House to come talk about it. “The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees released a joint statement saying it simply wasn’t worth their time” to hear from OMB Director Shaun Donovan. Accusing the members of pulling a “Donald Trump,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the move “raises some questions about how confident they are about the kinds of arguments that they could make.”

Source:
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
×